Stop watching TV: It’s a covert threat to your time and health

December 4, 2023 — by Alan Cai
Graphic by Amy Luo
Television is poison: Don’t let it dominate your life.
The problem with television extends beyond its links to obesity and heart disease; it is an insatiable black hole suffocating human innovation and time.

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.” 

Those famous words from founding father Benjamin Franklin are ones to live by.

Yet many Americans choose not to do so, as measured by how much they watch TV. 

The health effects from watching too much TV, from insomnia to diabetes, are well documented. But the crux of the issue is how it lures people into wasting hours on end without even realizing it. 

TV is an abomination, and we are its victims.

Let’s do the math. According to US News, an average American spends 3.1 hours a day watching television, meaning they can spend upwards of a thousand hours in front of television sets every year. Classifying an additional two to three hours per day of television-esque entertainment via social media or video games as TV time brings the total tally up to nearly 2,000 hours a year. The abundance of time spent on screens becomes even more evident when considering teens, who typically exceed seven hours of screen time daily.

Despite the egregious quantities of time wasted on television, people are still constantly drawn to the big screen. Scientifically, this can be attributed as a chase for dopamine; we want to get the most accomplishment from the least work. TV exploits this weakness by luring individuals into believing that they are being productive when the reality is the exact opposite.

Watching television perpetuates the false illusion that viewers are learning, experiencing or otherwise enduring the various facets of life. For some, I suspect this even includes a banal inkling of pride at having watched a popular series or show, which in turn leads them to feel a sense of false accomplishment. 

While watching television is essentially equivalent to sitting and doing nothing, movements on the screen induce a rollercoaster of emotions and dopamine release in the brain, keeping audiences engaged and feeling the false illusion of productivity.

This self-deception is detrimental to actual productivity because human power is wasted on indulgence rather than living actual life or doing actual activities.

Wasting time is scarcely the worst effect of watching television, however; TV can also normalize hateful or socially abnormal content and behavior. Absent of media influence, humans are compassionate beings. We are inclined to help the needy, support the disadvantaged and resolve disagreements peacefully.

Television too often reverses our engineering and trains us to do the exact opposite. Shows like Saturday Night Live and Shaqtin’ a Fool humiliate individuals, normalize laughing at mistakes, reinforce negative stereotypes, glorify violence and encourage hyper-individuality — all traits that benefit television spectacles at the expense of societal stability. When television encourages people to accept the otherwise unacceptable, everyone loses.

Polarizing content is harmful to society because it translates to political deadlock in Washington, D.C., and state capitals across the country, social unrest on the streets and a general aura of distrust and hatred in the American public atmosphere. For example, the disparaging and inaccurate claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election propagated by Fox News likely contributed to violence at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.Television was created for the sole purpose of earning money, not making art. Although it can be argued that there occasionally are television programs with positive, informative content, the institution in itself is fundamentally flawed. It is imperative that steps are taken to distance humanity from the evils of television and open a new door of opportunity in our country. Rather than burning countless hours behind the screen, students can read books, exercise, spend time with family or try out a new hobby — all ways of living life to the fullest in the real world.

18 views this week